Nasir and Matt discuss a lawsuit involving Gordon Ramsay and his business partner. They then address the question of whether an attorney or a CPA should take priority.
Full Podcast Transcript
NASIR: Welcome to Legally Sound Smart Business.
This is Nasir Pasha.
MATT: And this is Matt Staub.
NASIR: And this is our podcast where we cover business in the news with our legal twist and also answer some of your business legal questions that you’ve been gracious enough to send in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the way, that’s probably the best intro I’ve done this far.
MATT: I was going to say, you got the email address correct. It’s like, 50-50 on that.
NASIR: Yeah, that’s true. I didn’t mention the episode number. I didn’t want to take a chance of getting that wrong.
MATT: Yeah. Well, we usually leave that for the end, anyways.
NASIR: That’s true. We are ready to go, right?
I’m interested in this first story because I just watched Hell’s Kitchen which is a show that’s terrible now but I just kept watching it and now I just seem to watch it every season. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure of mine.
MATT: I got reeled in one season. I watched it. It’s all right. There’s nothing really of substance there but it’s interesting at times.
NASIR: No, there’s not. It’s probably one of the worst cooking shows, too. If you’re into cooking and so forth, it’s like terrible cooks that don’t really know what they’re doing and kind of just putting it together as the season goes along.
MATT: We’ll get into the actual story we have here. It’s hard to tell from the TV show because he comes off as a pretty… I mean, it’s Hell’s Kitchen. He comes off as this pretty mean guy.
NASIR: Yeah, but if you watch his British version, he seems completely different. It seems like the American shows, the producers make it so that it’s geared towards an American audience – a little over the top and kind of aggressive and so forth.
MATT: Yeah, exactly. We don’t know what his real personality is but maybe this story has a little bit of a reveal here.
Basically, it was Gordon Ramsay and he had a business partner. We are talking about this story so there’s obviously a lawsuit involved and it’s basically his business partner is now suing him for 10 million, essentially saying Ramsay kind of conned his way around their original deal through a couple of tricks that he did – one being with the intellectual property, one being with I guess that’s more of the name situation but I don’t know if you had heard about this or you’ve read about it at all – some pretty interesting things that it looks like he’s being accused of at least.
NASIR: They started this Rowen Seibel and Gordon Ramsey started this restaurant together called The Fat Cow, this LA eatery, and the problem was The Fat Cow was a restaurant named in Florida. Therefore, this Florida restaurant was, of course, upset about the name and so they filed a trademark infringement suit and this Rowen Seibel basically is saying that Ramsay mishandled this lawsuit. He even quoted him saying that he’s the trademark queen which I don’t know why he would say queen instead of king but that’s another issue.
But the point is they ended up closing down the restaurant and Seibel says that Ramsay used this trademark excuse to close the restaurant and create a new one without him. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly what went on because Ramsay’s team says that Seibel is the one that managed the restaurant. But, at the same time, how do you create a restaurant name like The Fat Cow without first doing a trademark search. I mean, you know that, especially in this case where you have a restaurant that‘s going to have automatic national publicity; you may want to expand it into other locations; and you want to be able to use the name. And so, the first thing you do before you actually solidify a name is make sure you do that trademark search and it seems like that wasn’t done here.
MATT: You’re exactly right, especially with the celebrity status of Gordon Ramsay and the Seibel guy invested 800,000. That’s a good chunk of money. You might want to do a little due diligence – assuming he had maybe an attorney or at least somebody help him out with this hopefully which this actually we’ll get into our question for today but, you know, you would think that someone would have looked that up at some point, but I guess that’s not the case.
Obviously, this article is kind of putting Ramsay in the bad light and maybe that’s the way it is but it’s hard to say exactly still what went down between the two or what the deal was.
NASIR: Yeah, because you have this guy – the one suing. Of course, his story is going to be in the press and, of course, anyone who has a chance to attack Gordon Ramsay is probably going to get more press anyway.
MATT: It looks like Ramsay just wanted a lot of control in this restaurant and that’s why he did this. It kind of makes sense if you’ve seen the show because he’s obviously very controlling in there. But, as we discussed, who knows how realistic that is? He might just be playing it up for TV. Basically, going on TV usually doesn’t end well for someone’s career – not for their career but there’s always negative things that are out there.
My advice to listeners – don’t start your own show.
NASIR: I think all publicity is, like they say, good publicity. You just have to have strong skin becase you’re going to be run through a lot of negative press and so forth. I’ve seen that in different permutations.
One thing to note, just to mention it, Ramsay has been sued by other contractors and accountants who have basically said they’ve never been paid and some of the staff that’s contended, they’ve been paid less than minimum wage. You know, when there’s smoke, there is usually fire in the legal world, especially if it’s coming from different sources. So, we’ll pay attention and see what’s going on with this.
If there’s one lesson that we can get from this, when you’re creating a name and branding yourself, of course, when you do an entity and the name, you’re going to do a search anyway. Otherwise, it’s not going to be registered properly. But, at the least, make sure that you’re going to be able to own and actually use that trademark because, once you develop that brand material and so forth, it’s going to be much more difficult to change later and it’s not something you want to deal with down the line.
MATT: This kind of leads into our question for the day here.
“I can only afford to pay a CPA or an attorney. Which should I choose?”
This comes from a dentist in Fresco, California.
NASIR: That’s a toughie.
MATT: I think this is an easy answer.
NASIR: Oh, you do? Okay. Well, I’ll let you go first because I can argue both ways so go ahead.
MATT: My answer is both.
MATT: Or find an attorney that is a CPA because you’re going to need both of these people.
Some follow-up questions, first one being, has this person spoken to multiple CPAs and attorneys? Do they know how much it’s going to cost? It sounds like they’re just kind of assuming, but any business is going to need both sides of this. I don’t think I can even give an answer that’s one or the other because I don’t know which I would choose.
NASIR: I think it also depends upon what purpose and why you need them. For example, to file your taxes, what do you think? A dentist, let’s say they’re just starting out, do they actually need a CPA or could they just find another tax preparer? What do you think?
MATT: I know not all tax preparers are CPAs. I kind of just group that together.
NASIR: But I think there’s different costs though because CPAs are going to be more expensive, yeah.
MATT: You bring up a good point, though. Like, what does he/she need the CPA for? If it’s for tax purposes, maybe they can just find a cheaper tax preparer because I think, for a dentist office, an attorney is going to be pretty important because, one thing, all the people that are working there, that’s going to be a big issue with the employment and I’m assuming they want to set up some sort of entity like a corporation – an S Corp, for example. And they obviously need an office space. There’s definitely going to be things that an attorney is going to need to do. At the same time, a CPA, because dentist’s offices are very equipment intensive so there’s going to be a lot of equipment that they’re going to have and, if they buy it, they’re going to need to depreciate that and that’s something that the average person or maybe even a lower-level tax preparer might not know.
My answer is still both.
NASIR: I think that’s a fair answer. Also, I was thinking, there’s no equivalent to downgrading a CPA for an attorney because you can’t hire a paralegal, for example, to do legal work. It’s really hard for you to piecemeal together other things – even talking to their dental colleagues – because there’s a lot of misinformation.
For example, a lot of people talk about how dentists should not incorporate because the advantages are no longer there anymore. There’s some issues to that. For example, this dentist is in California. Just like a lawyer, they can form a professional corporation and that’s not going to protect them from malpractice lawsuits, for example. However, it’s still going to protect you from other liabilities. What about your lease? What about when you lease equipment or buy equipment or your employer and so forth? These are some things that are actually going to protect you from personal liability. Of course, there might also be some tax benefits as well, depending upon how big your business is.
I would say get an attorney. Obviously, that’s self-serving. Make sure you’re covered on that end because a mistake there is just atrocious. And then, get a tax preparer that may be experienced in this area that is affordable. When you get a chance to get a CPA for your business, then do that. You can always amend tax returns if it’s a little off, but just make sure that the person that is doing your taxes at least is minimally competent.
MATT: I would agree with that. If you have legal problems and accounting problems, I think the legal problems are going to be much more difficult to fix and much more expensive to fix.
Looking at it that way, I’d probably go with attorney, but I’m still staying both. But, if I had to lean a little bit one way, I’d lean that way.
Well, that’s our episode for the day. We appreciate you guys for listening. This is Episode 31.
Thanks for listening!
Oh, I guess we already mentioned how to submit a question.
MATT: Yeah, I give you so much accolades at the beginning and you now forgot about it.
NASIR: I know, I just fumbled a close.
MATT: One of these days, we’re going to try to get that perfect show but it’s still going to be a while.
NASIR: Not today. Not Episode 31. But you can send in your questions at email@example.com.
Thank you for joining us!
MATT: As always, keep it sound and keep it smart.